By Brian Dunn
After years of acrimonious dealings with City of Montreal over tax issues, Montreal Port Authority and the City have decided to bury the hatchet and work together as partners.
“As partners … we’ve signed an agreement to resolve all tax litigation, and suspend the Supreme Court decision [to pay over $20 million in back taxes] and work together on a common strategic plan,” Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO, Montreal Port Authority, told a Société de développement économique du Saint Laurent (St. Lawrence Economic Development Council – SODES) luncheon meeting on November 29.
“Today, we are working with the city on several projects, including new access to our facilities in the Assomption-de Souligny sector, repairs on la rue de Boucherville – our main truck entrance – and the integration of the port into the city’s transportation plans, to name a few projects.”
The collaboration will also help raise the Port’s profile through the previously announced creation by the city of a logistics and transportation industrial cluster, one of eight such clusters around Montreal. The transportation cluster has hired a manager, Mathieu Charbonneau, formerly with the Association québécoise du transport et des routes, who started his new job on December 5. The cluster’s objectives include promoting the long-term development and competitiveness of the Montreal region’s logistics and transportation sector, to promote a better understanding of the industry by those who may not necessarily use it, and to facilitate attracting and retaining qualified workers.
The decision to transfer the grain handling operations of the Port to agri-business company Viterra Inc. last year appears to have been a wise decision, with grain traffic up 130 per cent from a year ago, Ms. Vachon noted.
The Port’s boss was equally enthusiastic about the fortunes of the cruise industry which have also taken off. “While continuing our work with the St. Lawrence Cruise Association to develop the cruise sector, we have enhanced our strategy to promote Montreal as a destination. Thanks to the concerted efforts of many, we welcomed 56 per cent more international passengers through our terminal in 2012 than we did the previous year. “Fostering business relationships with partners who are not directly involved in our industry is new ground for us. Indeed, it probably would have been unheard of until very recently. Working towards this common goal means economic spin-offs not only for Montreal, of course, but also for the entire cruise industry along the St. Lawrence River.” Quoting Henry Ford who said, “working together is success,”
Ms. Vachon mentioned the port’s electronic navigation project in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard, Laurentian Pilot Authority and Central St. Lawrence River pilots to respond to the needs of market requirements. “We have provided pilots with a new navigation tool to make optimum use of the channel between Montreal and Quebec. This allows shipping lines to load more cargo onto their vessels. I hope this announcement will be made official in 2013. Improving navigation on the river is a challenge in itself, but in reinventing the way we work, we believe this initiative will have major economic benefits for all companies that depend on maritime transportation.”
And citing a SODES study released last March on the economic impact of the marine industry in Quebec, Ms.Vachon said it was everyone’s responsibility to spread the word about the importance of the “St. Lawrence Gateway” which represents more than $600 million in tax revenues, generates 27,000 jobs and contributes $2.6 billion to Quebec’s GDP. “It has to occupy a more important economic space,” she concluded.